I keep seeing him in the hospital-bed, after he jumped an eight-foot fence BANG on the concrete, smashing the shit out of his knee, elbow and pride. I keep seeing him after the week-long queue to the hours-long operation, with the bright lights and duelling surgeons. After the wild pain, the crazy drugs.
I blew into his hospital room with Naomi, the love of his life on my arm. Mike was bare-chested on the white-sheets, clean-shaven, cracking wise in the sun, happy as a good man can be. His left arm and right leg were swaddled, blinding white. He looked like a new-born. At 52.
He grabbed his shirt when he saw me but I wanted it to stay off. Life was laid bare in that hospital room, down to the bone. I fucked up, he told me, but I’m getting over it. He apologized for crying three times in as many hours. I’m so happy to be alive.
Before he met Naomi, Mike’s biggest dream was to be a Dad, and he was a great one. He divorced young and took care of his three priceless kids, no alimony. Love jammed their home, but at some point, he wanted more.
I slipped him a stash of my homemade chocolate-chip cookies. I was clueless he didn’t like sweets but he ate one gamely, staggered by its greatness, and told me a top-drawer love-story when I asked.
Mike met Naomi 13 years ago through an old-school telephone dating service. Every minute cost and he was about to hang up when he heard her voice. She was laughing. They spoke for two solid-gold hours, then agreed to meet at a café. He got there early and sat in his car, pissing in his pants, scared witless, and was about to drive off when he remembered that he felt really good with her on the phone. When she walked into the café, she was wearing a soft-brown hat with long, floppy ears. He was hooked.
(The floppy ear-hat got lost, but she had others)
We rocked with laughter in that hospital room. Naomi sat at the foot of Mike’s bed, rubbing his feet. I couldn’t keep my eyes off either one of them. Their heat lit up the room.
Click here to read the first part of this story: Love or Death, 1.
R.I.P. Mike, in our hearts or somewhere we can’t see.
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